GCC softball packing offensive punch in early going
On paper, at least, this year's edition of the Greensburg Central Catholic softball team appeared to be in a rebuilding mode.
With only three seniors, it had the feel and look of a junior varsity team based on class rank.
However, as coach Gary Ciarimboli can attest, his young team can stack up against programs with far more experienced and older players.
Scoring runs — and lots of them — makes up for youth.
The No. 5-ranked Centurions are off to a hot start, compiling a 4-1 overall record and 4-0 mark in Section 4-AA thanks to an overpowering offensive attack.
GCC had blowout wins against South Allegheny, 22-5, Brentwood, 19-4, East Allegheny, 19-2, and Steel Valley, 8-0.
“I've been real pleased so far,” Ciarimboli said. “For a younger team, we are really hitting the ball well. You worry about that coming in because of the weather and not being able to get on the field much, but the girls are really putting up some runs.”
A pair of sophomores have led the way so far this season — catcher Carolyn Appleby and pitcher Nikki Adisey.
Adisey, who Ciarimboli said is one of the best shortstops around and was named all-section as a freshman last year, converted to be a full-time pitcher this year to anchor a staff short on depth.
Junior Lauren Sturnik, who normally starts in left field and is a former catcher, has been converted to a pitcher this season to give Adisey some rest.
Ciarimboli has been pleased with both pitchers so far.
“Adisey is just a very athletic player,” he said. “She's a tremendous basketball player, which limited her offseason work a bit, but she's already coming into mid-season form. She really brings a high level of athleticism to the team and has a very strong mindset toward pitching. She doesn't get flustered and is also one of our better hitters.
“We had to go to Lauren and ask her to become a pitcher. She's a great athlete and has made a smooth transition. With her background as a catcher, she understands the game well.”
Appleby has led the way defensively and at the plate.
“(Adisey and Appleby) are really our core,” Ciarimboli said. “Those types of softball players don't come along every year. They bring all the intangibles and do all the little things. I think they would excel in any sport they played. Luckily for me, it's softball.”
This year's team entered the season with aspirations of matching or exceeding last year's finish.
GCC lost, 3-2, against Deer Lakes in WPIAL Class AA championship game and then dropped a PIAA first-round game to Fairview.
Ciarimboli said having five girls back who played in that championship game will be instrumental in the Centurions returning to that level.
“We really got hot in the playoffs last year, and that's all it takes,” he said. “These girls learned that you don't have to have a perfect season to still be successful in the playoffs. It's one game, and anything can happen. Once you're in, records don't matter. They learned the workload required to get there and got to play in a high-pressure game.”
GCC has only 13 players out for the team so depth is an issue. However, the Centurions are considered a front-runner in the Section 4-AA race.
“We have a long way to go,” Ciarimboli said. “Our goal is always to win the section, but ultimately our goal is to go beyond that level. We want to win championships. But first things first, we have a lot of unknowns. It's still early, and we're all behind due to the weather. It's going to be interesting to see how it shakes out.”
Brian Hunger is a freelance writer.